GADDAFI WANTED A UNITED STATES OF AFRICA WITHOUT AFRICANS! By CAMERON DUODU (Based on an article in Africa Today Magazine published in 2009)
For argument’s sake, let us assume that in the 12 months that he will be chair of the African Union, Col. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya will actually bring off the project that appears dearest to his heart — the creation of a United States of Africa.
And let us imagine also that to celebrate the Brother Leader’s coronation as King of Africa — or King of Kings — the African Union Authority decides to organise a series of durbars in African capitals at which the King will deliver speeches exhorting his subjects to practise the precepts of African unity.
Everything goes swimmingly for the Brother Colonel and he is received with wild cheers everywhere. Until he reaches Nigeria. There, a pressure group originally formed as the ’Libyan Deportees Union’ but quietly camouflaged as the ’Support The Brother Leader Brigade,’ has placed a series of advertisements in local newspapers, urging the durbar to be transferred from Abuja to Lagos to enable more people to be enabled to offer their adoration to the Brother Leader.
The people of Lagos are more ‘expressive’ than those of Abuja, the adverts say. To drive the point home, they add: ‘The King of Kings of Africa deserves nothing but the uttermost best that Nigeria has to offer’! And Lagos is where it is at!’
The Nigerian security organisation, the SSS, doesnt quite like the idea of shifting the venue from Abuja to Lagos, and makes its views known to the Federal Government. But in the mean time, the Libyan secret agents in Nigeria have transmitted the adverts advocating a change of venue to the office of the Brother Leader, with not so subtle hints that t the agents have been putting the huge budget at their disposal to good use, ‘conscientising’ the Nigerian populace to the canon of the Green Book. In fact, the agents add snidely, it was after a republication of the Greene Book in Kaduna, with an initial print run of 5000,000 (to be reprinted to 2,000,000 copies as soon as the supplementary estimates submitted to the Brother Leader;s office have been approved) that the ‘tremendous enthusiasm generated by the advertisements began to make itself felt throughout Nigeria for the Leader’s visit,’ the agents insinuated.
The host country’s authorities, aware of their unpopularity with their own populace, fear that the visit will undermine their own standing with the populace, and it can be forecast with authority that they will resist, or even veto, the move of the venue to Lagos. They will, of course, cite “security’ as the reason for the veto, but that can be accorded little importance. The Brother Leader is loved in Lagos, as nowhere else, Lagos being a city half of whose inhabitants (at least) are Muslims. Added to the fact that Lagos has the best traditions of literacy — and political awareness — in the land, to bow to pressure and neglect an opportunity to address its inhabitants directly, would be remiss of the Brother Leader.
“We therefore strongly recommend that The Brother Leader holds his ground in backing the transfer of the durbar from Abuja to Lagos”, the sceret missive to the Brother leader’s office concluded. As soon as it arrived, it was minuted to the Leader as ‘FOR URGENT ACTION!‘, and within 20 minutes dead, a suitcase. full of crisp, new 1,000 bills (to the tune of $20m) was on its way by diplomatic bag to the agents in Abuja,
Acting further on the coded message, the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs sends a strong protest to the Nigerian foreign ministry, which makes it clear that if the popular clamour in Nigeria for a change of venue to Lagos is not accorded due recognition, the Libyan Government will be forced to conclude that the position of the Nigerian authorities is covertly ’unfriendly’ towards the sisterly republic of Libya — despite the overt co-operation that exists between the two states in practice, both at the UN, and the AU. The protest concludes that in the event of these ‘strong representations’ being ignored, the Libyan Government will have no option but to advise itself to reconsider its diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Mercy! The Libyan note throws Aso Rock, Abuja, into panic. Nigeria cannot be seen to be engaging in a public diplomatic row with the newly-elected Chair of the AU — the enthroned King of Kings of Africa. Everybody will conclude that the Nigerian action stems from jealousy, for Nigerian have not been unknown to tout the fact that their country is the most populous nation in Africa, and that one of every two black persons on the planet is a Nigerian. So, against the warnings of the SSS –presented in separate warnings each tagged “MOST URGENT”, the last of which even bore the highest classification: “EYES ONLY” (but of course to be passed to the Head of State after it had been read by those closest to him) the Federal Government concluded that the venue of the venue should be shifted to Lagos. After all, whether in Lagos or Abuja, Gaddafi would insist on organising his own security, and unless one wanted to engage in an embarrassing public confront him — in the manner of the ‘Ugandan affair’ of a few months ago, he would have to have his own way.
The day finally dawns. Everybody in Lagos, it appears, has come to the new Teslim Balogun Sports Stadium, Surulere, which, although built to accommodate only 60,000 people, is on this day, filled with about ten times that number, by virtue of the fact that the playing area has also become one huge public stand. Everyone who passed through the turnstiles was quietly handed an envelope, containing 500 Naira, and news of this spread like wildfire everywhere — all the way from Ajekunle and Festac Village, with Ekpe and its environs not excluded.
Drums rent the air with their fabulous rhythms. (‘Orchestras’ had been prepaid 15,000 Naira each). Representatives of the various Nigerian ethnic groups dance and engage in mock battles and the hunting rituals of ancient times (‘Cultural Displays; brought their organisers 25,000 Naira each).
The Brother Colonel beams at the people, and back to the Nigerian dignitaries on the podium with him, as if to say, ’Didnt I tell you they love me?’ But when he makes eye contact with President Umaru Yar’Adua, the latter continues to present his usual inscrutable face. If anything, he looks more detached than usual.
Finally, the Brother Leader is called upon to speak: “I bring you greetings fro your brothers and sisters in Libya!” he begins.
But instead of the wild applause he expects, a lone voice, that of a woman, is heard from one corner of the stadium. She yells into a battery-powered megaphone smuggled into the stadium, in the way only a Lagos woman who, as a child, used to carry wares on her head and yell their names to penetrate houses hundreds of yards away can do:
”Gaddafi oooh! Gaddafi! So where is the high definishon TV my husband for me in Tripoli, nko?”
As the Brother Colonel looks bewildered around the stadium, an enormous outburst of boos breaks out from all four corners of the stadium:
And then, as if they had rehearsed their moves, people carrying hidden placards take them out and rush uncontrollably towards the podium.
One of the placards reads:
”YOU DEPORTED ME AND FLEW ME HOME ON A PLANE WITHOUT ANY SEATS!”.
”LIBYANS ARE RACIST TOWARDS BLACKS, ABI?@
A third reads:
“NOT EVEN WATER TO DRINK BEFORE AND DURING DEPORTATION!”.
And, a fourth proclaims, “GADDAFI-TYPE AFRICAN UNITY KO! AFRICAN UNITY NI!”
As the placard holders charge towards the podium, the cries of ’HOOOOOOOOOOOOH’! emanating from all sides of the stadium, get louder and louder. It is as if a referee has allowed the Green Eagles to be scored a goal by a foreign forward who was ten clear yards offside.
The Nigerian police on duty at the stadium react as usual: by firing tear gas into the crowd.
Pandemonium breaks out. President Yar’Adua covers his nose and mouth with his babaringa and is immediately shepherded from the Stadium towards his car, which has driven on to the field at a signal from his handlers. Tear gas is not what Yar’Adua needs, what with his delicate health. Didnt Dr Chuba Okadigbo, former president of the Nigerian Senate, die in September 2003 as a result of inhaling fumes from tear gas?
Covering their eyes, and ululating battle-cries, screaming, shouting and brandishing Uzi sub-machine guns, the Brother Colonel’s Amazonian bodyguards rush towards him and surround him. They fire warning shots from their guns, preventing the Nigerian security personnel from approaching the Brother Leader. The Nigerians are stupefied: how can a visitor’s security detail operate in isolation from the host countrys own security detail?
And all this madness is watched the world over, carried in living colour, on live television, by Aljazeera.
The Brother Leader, is hustled by his guards into his armoured-plated car and is driven at high speed towards the Benin border, on his way to Accra, Ghana, where the next durbar is scheduled to take place. His convoy is two hundred and seventy-five cars long, but is able to penetrate Lagos like a single lengthy serpent, thanks to Uzis being fired into the air all along the escape route. But each and every car receives some rotten tomatoes or eggs from the crowds that line the streets. People shout ‘OLE OHHHHH ! OLE OHHHHHH! in time-honoured fashion. (In Lagos, when someone shouts “Ole ohhhh!” (thief! thief!) everyone assumes there is a thief really about indeed, and repeats the refrain instinctively. The alleged thief invariably does the wrong thing: run. Yet the moment he runs, he signs his or her own death warrant: if he or she as not a thief, why would he or she run? This conundrum leads to the deaths of many innocent people in crowded areas, particularly markets, in Lagos every year. People just have to learn not to annoy others when walking in crowded areas, for one shout of “Ole!” and that may be the last word you ever year!)
But no sooner has the Leader crossed the Nigerian border than word reaches him that all the way from Aflao to Accra, people carrying coffins, Fela Anikulakpo-Kuti style, are lining his route. They claim some Ghanaians returned from Libya in coffins.
In exasperation, the Brother Leader drives straight to Cotonou airport, where he awaits his personal aircraft. He refuses all hospitality offered by the Benin Government, afraid as he is that all West Africa is united in a conspiracy against him. Soon, the Brother Colonel is on his way to Sirte, where he goes into retreat. He stays there for Two hundred and Eleven Days, during which he only partakes of camel milk.
Pan-Africanists would hope that Col Gaddafi, during his retreat, would understand that you cannot create a ‘United State Of Africa’ without Africans. The Accra summit of 2007 was unsuccessful precisely because exactly forty-two years before the Accra meeting, a similar attempt had been made, in the same city, to institutionalise a ‘United States of Africa’. Without success.
Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah had first tabled the idea at the very first African summit at which the OAU was formed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963. If Gaddafi had realistically done his homework on this, he would have recognised that subjective factors play a part in how such grandiose ideas are perceived by others, and he would have gone about healing the wounds that his fellow-countrymen had inflicted on Africans who had attempted to live and work in Libya, before utering the words, “African unity”.
Because of Libya’s past contemptuous treatment of Africans of the sort that the Kenyans and Tanzanians call wananchi and the Nigerians call talakwa, (street people who take enormous and sometimes unbelievably dangerous risks in trekking to different places to seek their fortune) what the leaders thought would be a kind gesture to Gaddafi had brought nothing but wrath on the head of the Colonel. African bloggers were deriding him as a man with an overweening ambition to become ’King of Kings’ in Africa.
So, just as President Nkrumah’s ideas were derided in 1963 and 1965 because he was being bad-mouthed both at home and in many parts of Africa, Gaddafi too has few admirers outside a magic circle that is mesmerised by his personality — and largesse –and doesn’t take any interest in his deeds.
In Nkrumah’s case, the overthrow and brutal murder, by the Togolese army, of President Sylvanus Olympio of Togo, with whom Nkrumah was barely on speaking terms ,in 1963, had given rise to widespread speculation, false though it turned out to be, that Nkrumah had had a hand in the Togo coup. Indeed, at the time he was passionately urging other African leaders to join him in forming a United States of Africa, Djibo Bakary, a bete noire of the Niger Government, was a welcome guest in Accra; Sam Ikoku, whom the Nigerian Government had declared ’Wanted’ as an alleged collaborator of Chief Obaemi Awolowo’s in the treason proceedings that had sent Awolowo to jail, was also resident in Accra.
Thus, Nkrumahs efforts at achieving a United States of Africa were somewhat vitiated by a contradiction created by what his would-be co-confederationists regarded as his personal failures. Belatedly, he expelled some of the alleged subversives from Ghana beforethe Accra Summit of 1965. But there were wry smiles on the faces of many of his peers, as he delivered himself of eloquent speeches (both in Addis Ababa and Accra) pleading with his fellow heads of state to form a United States of Africa. President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania gave vent to some of the views held about Nkrumah’s stance at the time, when he took the unusual step of launching a public verbal attack on Nkrumah from the podium of the OAU summit in Cairo in 1964.
All this has been documented, but almost as if he is not interested in the antecedents of the idea he is trying to push, Gaddafi goes on without adequately appraising the contradictions that confront him, too, vis-à-vis his effort to ram home the idea of a United States of Africa. His situation is probably worse than that of Nkrumah, because whereas Nkrumah was popular with the African masses, but not necessarily with African heads of state, in Gaddafis case, it is the masses who are, in some cases, baying for his blood.
Their main concern is the rough treatment — often amounting to brutality — meted to Africans who have tried to live and work in Libya. No-one denies the fact that Libya has the right to expect Africans to obtain visas before travelling to Libya, or that they should obtain work permits before working in Libya, and that once there, they should act lawfully.
But as this report in the Ghana Daily Graphic of 17 December 2004, shows, the methods adopted by the Libyan authorities in dealing with the citizens of other African states who fall short of the behaviour expected of them while thy are on Libyan territory, is often deplorable:
“The Libyan Government has deported another batch of 132 Ghanaians living in that country.
“This brings to 6,027, the total number of such deportees since the Libyan Government began the exercise The deportees had been coming in on regular intervals of between two weeks and one month. They were brought in aboard a cargo flight.
Airport sources said that apart from the first batch, which was brought in aboard a passenger plane, the rest had always been on cargo planes which had no seats. In an interview, some of the deportees alleged that the conditions at the camp had been dehumanising, since there were no sleeping places. ’There were only canopies stretched across a vast area of land and we were not fed regularly. We had to stay without water for over a day or two,” the deportees said, adding that there was overcrowding at the camp . The source said that a particular batch had been kept at the camp for 17 days and so they were very exhausted.”
Now, which Ghanaian patriot does Gaddafi think can condone such dehumanising treatment by a country that purports to have the interests of other African states so much at heart that it wants to unite with them? Only those who benefit from Libyan petrodollars can close their eyes to such inhumanity.
Over in Nigeria, too, people have a bone to pick with Gaddafi. An article in the influential Lagos Guardian, as recently on 13 February 2009, said:
“One wonders about this sudden enthusiasm [for a United States of Africa] which has overtaken Gaddafi, given the fact that his government has been involved in brutality against Africans from other countries who found themselves legally or illegally in Libya.
“A lot of Nigerians and other Africans in search of greener pastures have been brutalised, dehumanised and tortured; some killed while the lucky ones got deported. If Gaddafi had shown some iota of mercy to these Africans who sneaked into Libya, maybe we would not have read [too] much h [hidden] meaning into this idea being touted by him.
Has Libya made any serious attempts to heal wounds of the sort it has inflicted on the psyche of Africans who have had it rough in Libya? I doubt it: Gaddafi is so protected from public opinion in his own country such as it is that he probably thinks he is viewed elsewhere with the same enforced adulation as exists in Libya.
Yet if the African people as a whole do not give their blessing to any agreement unifying their countries, their blessing, the agreement will be a mere scrap of paper. For it is not Presidents who implement agreements between nations, but the people of a country. Take, for instance, the most fundamental provision that an agreement between countries that want to unite should make: free movement of peoples and goods between the contracting states.
Apart from regional arrangements, such as that entered into by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), no African can get up just like that and go to visit another African country. He or she will need a visa. Yet not every African country has an embassy in all other African countries.
I was myself once caught in this dilemma when I was assigned to do a story in Cameroon about the Cameroon football club that was going to the World Cup in 1982. Cameroon is a country that had conned the rest of Africa into voting for two of its citizens to head the OAU — Nzo Ekangaki (1972-74) and William Eteki Mboumoua 1974 -78). Yet this country that in spirit, should have been the leader of the OAU, did not allow me entry to report on its World Cup football team in 1982, but detained me at Douala airport for forty-eight hours, while its immigration officers toyed with me, claiming to be trying to contact Yaounde for authority to let me in! As I waited, feeling sorry for myself, I saw Europeans being waved in without visas. On the third day, my exasperation boiled to an intolerable level and I caught a plane back home. Roger Milla or no Roger Milla — I now have no enthusiasm for the exploits of th Cameroon football team. Even the great skill of Samuel Eto’o hasn’t been able to eradicate the bitterness from my mind.
I have since also experienced unfriendly behaviour from customs, immigration or health authorities at airports in Cairo, Lusaka, and — even Johannesburg, my spiritual home! It is so sad, if you’re an ardent Pan-Africanist, to be subjected to these indignities by people you consider your brothers. Once I was almost reduced to tears to find that immigration officers at Accra airport had denied entry to Miriam Makeba, Mama Afrika. She had been banned in 1966 after the coup against Dr Kwame Nkrumah, who was her friend. But years after Nkrumah had died, the ban was still in place.
Yet you cannot blame the officials. I it is the responsibility of their political masters to accept their failure to make African unity a meaningful concept to their citizens. These leaders take taxpayers’ money with them to go on the ‘African jamboree; summits each year, just to slap each other on the back. But they forget to educate their officials back home that Africans are brothers and should be treated humanely by all their brothers and sisters.
As the very minimum step to be taken to develop African unity, it is imperative that visa requirements should be abolished between all African states, for visits that last not more than six months. Extensions for a longer stay should not be made difficult, nor should applications for work permits.
African countries should also get their academics and foreign service officials, who are knowledgeable about the full benefits that African unity can bring to each African state, to undertake seminars for their countries immigration and customs officials, so that their attitudes will become less hostile to visitors from other African states.
Television and radio stations should be encouraged to carry programmes emphasising how goods from African countries can be cheaper and perhaps better than those produced in Europe, America or Asia. We should also encourage exchanges of visits between African educational institutions. You only relate to people positively when you get a chance to meet them physically.
Certainly, it is nonsensical to be preaching the theory of establishing a ‘United States of Africa’ to people, when you make it impossible or difficult for them to interact with one another in the flesh.
I am sure governments will say they have no money for this, but I can retort by saying that if they cut down on the size of the delegations they take to AU conferences to read speeches about African unity, they could save enough money to send a few students each year on exchange programmes with other African educational institutions. The same thing applies to the employees of banks, factories, shops and market women.
Sure, the 21st century should be seized upon to make Africa great. But we cannot achieve greatness with mere words. It must be done with practical deeds.